The New York Times' metro desk will no longer subscribe to any magazines or newspapers, according to a just-released memo this morning. The NY Observer has the goods. I have sympathy -- better to cut paper than people, of course -- but also one observation.
When I moved to DC to work for Atlantic Media, I subscribed to zero magazines and newspapers. At some point, it occurred to me that if I expected anybody to subscribe to The Atlantic -- which puts about all of its content online for free, and then some -- I should start subscribing to the magazines I really wanted to survive the recession. Karmically, and reasonably, it seemed like the proper thing to do.
I'm not saying this NYT decision sows the paper's destruction. But I hope the NYT finds it instructive and significant that it, as a newspaper with all of its own content online, has suddenly found paper journalism dispensable. Other NYC journalists surely feel the same about the Times. If there is a lesson here, it is that paper journalism can be dispensable -- even for journalists. It's time to start thinking about what that means in a broader sense than "Please put any newspapers or magazines that you care to contribute to our "share and share alike" system."